Virginia Heroes

Edward Wallace Hughes

Staff Sergeant, Army

Hometown: Orange County
Served In: World War II
Casualty Date: December 24, 1944
Died In: Luxembourg

Staff Sgt. Edward Wallace Hughes was born December 5th in Pennsylvania. He was the 5th born of 7 children of Nellie Pendleton and Ernest Hughes. As a teenager, Edward moved with his family to Orange, Virginia where he attended high school. According to his mother’s accounts, he drove a cab, and he also was a cook at the Dining Car Restaurant in Roslyn, Virginia (1940 Census). By 1942, he had enlisted in the military at Camp Lee, Virginia and spent 2 years in training at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana before disembarking overseas and joining up with the 80th Division 317th Infantry “Blue Ridge Boys” under Patton’s Third Army to help liberate towns throughout France and Luxembourg from German occupation.

It was Edward’s 26th birthday in 1944, and he was with the 317th Infantry in 1944 in Division Reserve in Macheren, France reorganizing, training and rehabilitating after much activity in November when they had advanced 30 miles and took almost 4,000 prisoners. According to 317th Infantry History, they had sustained 3,101 casualties, cleared Delme Ridge, passed through pillboxes of the old French Maginot Line, and captured the town of Falquemont.

During this period of rest, Edward and his comrades were experiencing severe weather conditions as they were about to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, the largest and bloodiest single battle fought by the US in WWII and the second deadliest battle in American history. The book One Hell of a War described what the 317th infantry troops were experiencing. “During the day and evening of the December 23, the infantrymen marched through the dense woods between Ettelbruck and the towns of Niederfeulen and Kehmen. Every day seemed the same: miles of marching, intense cold, swirling fog, mysterious woods, and general confusion,” one soldier remembered. “We stumbled ten to fifteen miles each day with temperatures dropping to twenty below zero.”

On December 24, the 3rd Battalion, which included Edward’s Company K, departed Feulen, Luxembourg at 0945 by foot and traveled 4 miles. Then attacked the hill west of Kehmen. They met heavy resistance, mortar, artillery and small arms fire. The enemy dug in position in foxholes. The weather was cold and they established positions below the west crest of hill. Edward was killed in combat during this battle, 19 days after his 26th birthday. It was Christmas Eve.

The news would reach his family via Western Union telegram that Edward was “Missing In Action.” A few months later in February 1945, he was found and notification was sent to family that he was “Killed In Action.” In April 1949, Edward’s remains were moved from Luxembourg cemetery to Arlington National Cemetery where he is buried at Sec: 34, Site: 1585. He received the Purple Heart posthumously. His name is also engraved on the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Virginia.

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